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JERUSALEM – Remarks by the Palestinian president about the causes of 20th century anti-Semitism in Europe were sharply condemned as anti-Semitic by the United Nations, European Union, United States and Israel on Wednesday.
In rambling remarks that were part of a lengthy speech to the Palestine Liberation Organization parliament on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the Jews' "social function," including money lending, that caused animosity toward them in Europe, citing what he said were books by Jewish authors. He also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying "history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland."
The U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said Abbas had repeated "some of the most contemptuous anti-Semitic slurs."
"Leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it," he said in a statement Wednesday.
"Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality," Mladenov said.
The U.S. ambassador to Israel, as well as Israel's prime minister, lashed out at Abbas over his remarks.
"Abu Mazen has reached a new low," Ambassador David Friedman tweeted early Wednesday, referring to Abbas by his nickname. "To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don't have peace, think again."
President Donald Trump's special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt also responded to the remarks, calling them "very distressing and terribly disheartening."
The rhetoric reflects the escalating tensions between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. Ties have been strained since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year, prompting the Palestinians to suspend contacts with the administration. Friedman and Abbas have sparred before. In March, Abbas called Friedman a "son of a dog" in an angry rant. Friedman suggested the remark was anti-Semitic.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the remarks were "the pinnacle of ignorance" and that the Palestinian leader was "again reciting the most disgraceful anti-Semitic slogans."
The European Union said in a statement that the Palestinian president's speech "contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel's legitimacy." It warned that "such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated."
The statement said that "anti-Semitism is not only a threat for Jews but a fundamental menace to our open and liberal societies."
Abbas' office declined to comment.